4 Resources if You’re Trying to Manage Your Weight

It’s the time of year when many people are setting health goals, and since I have a medical background, people often ask what I recommend. (This is where you are to ignore what I look like in favor of what I know to be true.)

1. Practice Mindful Eating:

  • Use a food diary —  Time and again it’s been proven that the simple act of recording every item to pass your lips is a powerful method of creating change in eating habits. It’s even more powerful if paired with a source of external accountability, such as a partner, group, dietician or physician.
  • Eat at the table and not in front of any screen.
  • Keep unhealthy foods out of the house OR, if you have other people who want to keep your “danger” foods in the home, keep them pre-divided into portions and out of sight.
  • Keep variety in your fruits and vegetables and make them accessible.
  • A book I highly recommend: Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think by Brian Wansink, Ph.D.

2. If you’re going to follow a calorie-counting plan, make it Weight Watchers.

Our weight is a function of calories in versus calories out. Period. No exception.

Of all the commercial plans available to consumers, it’s the one that has been proven to be maximally effective in the longterm.

3. If you don’t want to count calories, use the principles of calorie density.

This is my preference, honestly. It works on the principle that our appetites are as exquisitely sensitive to our body’s requirements as our thirst. It’s elegant, simple, and effective. The single best person I know to explain the science and its application is Jeff Novick. I recommend this video. (Standard disclaimer that I have no financial interest in any of the resources I’m recommending.) 

If you wish to see him in action, here’s a Youtube video in which he discusses some of the information available on his DVD:

Jeff has a  place on the forums at Dr. McDougall’s website, which I also recommend. The latter is sounds militant but knows his science. (If I were unable to negotiate the health research literature myself and needed someone to interpret it for me, this would be my Go To site. There’s a newsletter, active forums, and Jeff presides over a section. The stickies at the top are invaluable.)

4. Exercise

I’ve listed this last for a simple reason: ten minutes of unmindful eating can cancel an hour or more of vigorous activity. Having said that, exercise is a gateway activity to healthful behaviors for me and many others. It boosts endorphins, self-esteem, and can provide the time to recommit to other, helpful endeavours.

If you’re never going to be a creature of the gym, consider buying a pedometer.  Walking is an excellent exercise, and pedometers are inexpensive, simple, and objective.  (In other words, you can no longer lie to yourself about your real activity level.)

 Start by recording the number of steps you take every day for a full week. Then figure out your average steps per day and then gradually increase it, until you’re routinely achieving 10,000 steps per day. 

The two brands recommended in the health literature are the Digiwalker (available at New Lifestyles and other venues) and the Omron.  Make sure you get one with a safety strap and with a cover plate so that the buttons can’t be accidentally reset. 

Note:  ideally a fitness program should also address strength, flexibility, and balance, but we’re going for the basics here.

Question: Are you setting a weight-related goal for yourself this year? If so, what are your plans?


14 thoughts on “4 Resources if You’re Trying to Manage Your Weight

  1. I can’t use weight watchers because I don’t weigh enough to start with that would give me a reasonable eating plan. (I’ve gained 20lbs over the past couple years and I’d like to get rid of them, but I’d settle for even just 10.)

    I LOVE the elliptical and know I would rock my goal if I had access to one anymore but I don’t and that’s what totally trips me up. :/

  2. *sigh* I’ve tried hundreds of diets, but that nasty doctor of mine finally hit on only one that worked: eat less, exercise more. Sad but true. However, there is no price on feeling better.

  3. I’m with Teresa on this one. I’ve been building up on this for several weeks, but now it if crunch time. I know I have to eat more veggies. I’m even braving eggplant tonight. I’ve joined Kendo and two dance exercise classes. Plus that Biggest Loser Wii game fills in the gaps. Here’s to a thinner New Year ladies, good luck to us all!

  4. Jess, to lose 10 lbs in a year, that’s 100 fewer calories taken in a day or 100 calories of higher activity. I have a hunch you can find something besides the elliptical to do that. (Not trying to push you, but just provide a little reality check.)

    Teresa, LOL, it does come down to basic physics, doesn’t it? Good luck. 🙂

    Donna, have you tried roasted eggplant? My favorite kind is the long, skinny variety known as “oriental”. You don’t even need to peel it. Chop and roast for 1 hour at 350 after you sprinkle with garlic and a little soy sauce. And yes, may we all succeed. 🙂 You’ll have to let me know how that Wii game works for you.

  5. I’ve never tried a food diary because it always seems like one of those things I wouldn’t actually do, but maybe this year I’ll give it a try. I do know that if I could just give up that ‘one more thing’ (one more cookie or piece of toast or second helping of potatoes) I would not only feel better when I finished eating, but over time it would really cut the calories.

    Thanks for the resources!

    1. I was lucky enough to meet Jeff Novick in person, and he always stresses the importance of incremental changes and consistency in lifestyle change. It’s like writing!

      Good luck, and do give the journaling a whirl. 🙂

  6. I swear by Weight Watchers. If in fact you follow it (which I’ve successfully done several times in my life) it is flexible and sane compared to every other diet I’ve ever tried. You can plan for splurges. With a few weeks of careful checking, the points in the foods you eat regularly become internalized. I am also a serious walker, though I am trying to add in some strengthening stuff (core for my back and arms just because my arms and back are the only part of my body that ever look ‘hot’ so it’s encouraging…) I will have to look at that density stuff…

  7. You know… I just watched the video and that is one of the things I’ve intuitively done with the weight watchers… things like the ‘free veggies’ have caused me to add in those munchables and i learned that I am a ‘volume eater’–so if I need volume, a lot of that food needs to be very low points… I love, for instance, to supplement my 4 point lunch with a big bowl of ‘free’ soup (usually a squash base, all veggies–homemade)

  8. Hart, I used to do Weight Watchers and yes, the zero point foods follow that principle entirely. Anecdotally, it seemed to me the people who did the best on Weight Watchers were following the low calorie density plan, eating largely unprocessed foods. The ones who crashed and burned relied on a lot of prepackaged, processed foods and complained of hunger a lot.

    I can’t handle hunger. No one can, long-term.

  9. You know, I increased my calories to lose some weight — I did this “accidentally” – while I was in Oregon for two weeks, I wasn’t running and I was eating more, so I thought sure I’d gain weight – well, I lost at least 3 and then another the week after I returned home- I was so surprised, so I did an experiment and kept eating more food as I did in Oregon, but kept up the running – I gained back a pound or so (maybe because of the holidays) but danged if I wasn’t happy I could have more food – I was probably “starving” myself by eating low calorie foods, not enough protein/carbs, or whatever – I’ve introduced bread (whole grain) back into my diet and upped my protien some (I don’t really eat meat much at all, am an “flexitarian” 😀 ) –

    I’m trying to find that balance between my running, walking routine, my yoga (and I’ve just started my ‘weight’ training again) and the amount of food I need to stay about where I am, maybe a pound or two lighter –

    adding calories is scary to a woman who has weird food and weight issues … lawd….

    But, running is SO WONDERFUL!

    1. As you know, weight alone is complex, because it doesn’t just record fat stores, but also bowel movements and fluid retention. That can cause a variation of up to three pounds easily. (More if someone has big health issues.) That said, how interesting! I know I’ve lost weight when travelling. I figured it was because I spent less time sitting and often ate completely for appetite, not according to habit. I was worried about overeating and so listened to my body better than I do at home.

      Anyway, hope you can keep the exercise routine that makes you feel well and have health and a trim appearance!

  10. i always have a goal to lose weight. I’m glad to hear about weight watchers since i’ve been considering it the last few weeks since my problem is always food because i work out on our treadmill or eliptical 30 min 4 times a week and put in strength twice a week as well.
    Mostly, i’m looking forward to all this snow melting so i can get back to walking the dogs every day

  11. At this point I don’t have a set goal of how much I want to lose, just that I plan to lose weight. I started yesterday by joining Weight Watchers so I can track my food. At the moment, I’m doing 20 minute on the elliptical trainer. I plan to increase that. Doing it day by day.

  12. Sarah, it really is hard to make up for calories consumed with exercise, especially with winter pushing us towards sedentary behavior. Good luck with Weight Watchers!

    Helen, day by day is a great strategy for sure. You’re making a good choice with the food tracking. I found it very enlightening. Good luck!

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